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Liberals and progressives made far too many wrong assumptions about Bush. They assumed that millions were so enraged at Bush for the Iraq debacle, in fear of his possible Supreme Court picks, angered at his corporate tax cut giveaways and the loss of thousands of jobs that they would storm the barricades to get him out. They assumed that spending a fortune on rock the vote drives, mass mailers, anti-Bush Web sites and media blitzes would drive millions of new anti-Bush voters to the polls.
They assumed that African Americans and Latinos were so furious at Bush snubs, assaults on civil rights and civil liberties, and the slash and burn of education and health programs they'd vote unanimously to oust him. They assumed that Bush voters were deluded, misinformed, poorly educated, Christian fundamentalist fanatics or racists. Bush got more votes than any other president in U.S. history, won a majority of states, and topped Kerry in the popular vote.
That wouldn't have happened if these assumptions were right, and they weren't. The number of Latino votes hit record highs in some areas. But their votes as wrongly assumed didn't all go to Kerry. Nearly 40 percent of Latinos voted for Bush, and one-third of them described themselves as born again Christians. Though the black voter turnout was greater this election than in 2000, more than 10 percent of blacks voted for Bush, and in crucial Ohio, it was 20 percent. Many blacks and Latinos were more wary, and distrustful of Kerry, and less hostile toward Bush and more conservative than was assumed.
The majority of Bush voters in the so-called red states were not the stereotypical religious crackpots and racists that progressives delight in painting them. They were white, and increasingly Latino, small business owners, ranchers, farmers, middle class professionals, and suburbanites. They are pro-business, anti-big government, pro-religious and family values.
Though racial, gender, and economic tensions and fears are driving forces behind white male devotion to Bush, it was wrongly assumed they are the prime reason for their devotion to him. Since Barry Goldwater's landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Republicans have branded government as a destructive, bloated, inefficient white elephant, weighting down the backs of middle-class Americans. That argument resonates with many workers because taxes are too high, and government is too big, distant and removed. Though Bush's tax cuts are blatant sops to the rich and corporations, many small business owners and middle-class taxpayers also benefited from them.
While plant closures, high oil prices, and job losses have devastated many families, the economic pain and suffering was not deep nor widespread enough, as wrongly assumed, to spark a wholesale voter revolt against Bush. And even if it had, it could not trump the genuine horror millions of Americans have of more terror attacks. That fear was one of Bush's two political aces. They bought Bush's pitch that he, not Kerry, will best defend them from attack. The last minute surface of the Osama bin Laden tape that promised more attacks drove that very real fear home. That worked in Bush's favor, not Kerry's, as wrongly assumed.
His other ace card was moral values. In his second debate with John Kerry, Bush flatly stated that he was opposed to abortion and gay marriage. That was the spark that evangelical voters needed to fire them up. Gay marriage bans which passed by overwhelming numbers in eleven states brought droves of evangelicals to the polls. Almost all backed Bush. In Ohio, one-fourth of voters called themselves church going Christians. They were not, as wrongly assumed, typecast Christian fanatics. They backed Bush by a 3 to 1 spread over Kerry.
The National Election Pool confirmed that morals were their biggest concern. They deeply believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that the fractured American family is under attack. That view is narrow, and bigoted, but given the deep Puritanism and adherence to Christian morals in America's heartland, anti-gay bans, were not as wrongly assumed, to them an illogical way to preserve the traditional family.
It was wrongly assumed that Bush had totally disgraced the presidency. But millions, no matter who holds the office, regard it with awe and respect. In the past century Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and Bush Sr. were the only elected presidents to lose the White House. Even then, it took the Great Depression to beat Hoover, Reagan's celebrity name and charisma to beat Carter, and the insurgent candidacy of Ross Perot that snatched millions of Republican votes from Bush Sr. to beat him. In the National Election Pool survey, a majority of Bush supporters said they voted for the presidency.
It was wrongly assumed that Republicans would once more resort to fraud, chicanery, and black voter suppression to win the White House. They didn't and liberals and progressive should closely examine that wrong assumption as well as the others to understand why Bush didn't have to cheat this time to win.